National Geographic : 1950 Dec
© National Geographic Society 788 Kodachrome by Paul Pryor Queenly Pearl, Favored by Fashion, Is the Only Precious Gem to Come from the Sea or That IsProduced by aLiving Process When a tiny particle or parasite finds its way between the shells, the oyster isolates it with nacre, similar to itsiridescent shell lining. Thus apearl isborn. Suc cessive coatings enlarge the seed; in cross section it appears onionlike. Taking a tip from Nature, Japanese KokichiMikimoto inserts tiny beads inbaby oysters, then plants them in watched beds until the bivalves grow lustrous cultured pearls (above). Natural Oriental pearls from the Persian Gulf (opposite) or Ceylon waters are considered finest. An oldsuperstition that apearl loses life when itsowner dies is partly true; the pearl is perishable, may be harmed by age, sunlight, or acid. Wearing preserves its luster, forskin moisture keeps itfrom drying out. To restore a scratched pearl, a layer may be peeled off, but this is not always successful. Luster, form, tint, as well as size determine value. Graded. single pearls intray.